This began as a comment on my Soft Thinking post, but it quickly became large enough to be a post of its own. Small-tee tim thought perhaps that (The Other) Andy hadn't quite gotten the point when 9/11 happened, because (The Other) Andy stated that he personally didn't care whether the mosque is built or not. It was not a position on whether we had a social, cultural, or global responsibility to allow or deny it, but an expression of how he thought about it when he rolled out of bed in the morning. Probably sounded like this: "Is there coffee, sweetheart?"
We tend to think that everybody does what we do. We expect everybody to have roughly similar operating parameters when it comes to opinions. Mosque at Ground Zero? You are either for it or against it, no ambivalence allowed. If you are ambivalent, you must have missed the point, or perhaps are just plain being intellectually lazy. We'll assume you are ignorant of the issues, and some part of us will probably have you tending a still in the Arkansas backwoods. This is because in modern times we are trained by our saturation in the internet to get a sense that everybody everywhere is debating the same things that we are. A guy in Chicago writes a piece about a mosque, and 100 commenters from 80 different cities in 10 different countries log in to contribute. And this happens on thousands of websites every day, so it must be that everybody on Earth - or at least in the civilized world - is involved. And if you come across someone who says "A what at where? Who cares?" Then he must be an anomaly. Slack-jawed, to boot.
However, there is an enormous number of people who do not subject themselves to the roiling and contentious political blogosphere like we do every day - because they don't like it. I am on the fence, as you can tell if you read much of my blog. I fully admit that I find myself drawn to it, but I like myself less as a person, Husband, and Father when I get involved. And there are people who don't get involved. Who never turn on the cable news channels. People who don't go to rallies or protests. They tend to have a bit more fun with it even when they do. The world is a very, very different place for them, and much, much more pleasant. You think that they are in danger because they are not paying attention, and they think you are in danger because you have forgotten how to be happy without someone else's failing being the source of it. Like it or not, we are angry people. Just look at the things we read and the mean little comments we leave everywhere we go. It's a little scary. Check your list of daily reads and see how many go a day without commanding the widespread derision of someone, denigrating someone, dismantling someone's beliefs or opinions about something, or taking pleasure in someone "getting his comeuppance." Right now, I am leaving a comment on a piece that I wrote about why an entire religion should be condemned. No matter what Islam has done, that is just plain nasty of me, and unmistakably wrong. Morally wrong. Ethically wrong. It cannot be painted any other way. And yet this sort of thing is the most abundant example of our cultural impetus in the 21st century.
For many people, there is a genuine ambivalence to this sort of thing, because for folks who do not dedicate themselves to endless debates, who are not alternately enraged by disagreement and enraptured by like-mindedness, this is a very simple issue. It boils down to a simple question: "What is wrong with you people?" Muslims, non-Muslims, mosque supporters and mosque detractors. This should not matter.
Of course, Islam makes it matter, because it has proven that it has no respect for us. That it wants us dead. The tired "Not all Muslims are terorrists" line is bland, empty, and immature, because every human on planet Earth is aware of that. However, there are huge numbers of Muslims who wish that all Muslims were terrorists, and truly believe that they should be. That it is their duty to kill infidels. That's why it is a problem. You just don't get that with any other faith.
Does this mean that I or anyone else has any kind of imperative or responsibility to have a voice about it? You are taking a mighty almighty position if you are willing to decree that I do. Does it mean that it is wrong of a happy family man in Louisiana to personally not care if it gets built or not? You are making some haughty assumptions about mankind's affinity for your personal machinations if you think it is. I am sure every man has some beliefs that he would use to to weigh in on this and other issues, but there is nothing saying he has to, or that he is wrong for abstaining. Truly, it is a monumental failing for a man to abandon his beliefs, but is an equal failing for him to ride them unbridled through every unlocked door.